Stratford-Salariya Picture Book Prize Winner
The Stratford-Salariya Picture Book Prize is a collaboration between the Salariya Book Company and Stratford-upon-Avon Literary Festival. It’s an annual prize to find the next (currently unpublished) author-illustrator.
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Jo Surman was the joint 2020 winner and her debut book Snow? was published in Autumn 2021. It’s both written and illustrated by Jo. Sadly, Jo’s publishers went into insolvency but thankfully in October 2023 Snow? was brough back to life by Templar under the title First Snow.
First Snow Jo Surman
The book is a stunning and would make a beautiful, seasonal gift. The cover is magical with the snow glinting in the light of the moon through the trees.
I adore when an illustrator really takes the time to make the endpapers something noteworthy.
At the start of the book there is an idyllic Autumnal scene with falling leaves, a gentle pond and a farm house with rolling hills behind. Echoing the front cover, the pages are framed by trees. It’s these sort of details that make me quite sure I’ll love a book before I’ve even got any further.
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The endpapers at the back of the book is a contrast into Winter of the same scene. Bare trees, the land covered in a blanket of snow and a frozen over pond. I particularly loved the snow topped mushrooms.
First Snow by Jo Surman – Synopsis
The start of the book begins snuggled underground beneath the roots of a tree. Mum and her fox cubs are keeping warm together. It’s a dark spread but it’s full of love the way Jo has illuminated the foxes in their den.
The little cubs want to know what Snow is but Mother Fox falls asleep before she can reply. The little cubs head out in the day to find out from the other woodland creatures what snow is. They gather all the information they can but nothing can truly prepare them for the joy of first snow.
This book really took me back to when my daughter, as a toddler, first discovered snow and the sheer delight on her face as she frolicked in the soft, white powder.
I believe Jo is a real nature lover and especially a lover of trees as most of the spreads have trees or parts of a tree in them. Her style of illustration, especially of the woodland creatures, is unique and there’s an enchantment to each character.
The story would make a lovely read-aloud and children would enjoy joining in with the repeated refrain – ‘can you tell us what snow is?’ There’s some gorgeous vocabulary used such as ‘scampered’, ‘nuzzling’, ‘huffed’ and ‘swooped’ just to mention a few.
First Snow – Jo Surman Recommendation
This one gets a highly recommended from me as both my daughter and I adored it. I very much advocate reading to children from as soon as they’re in the womb and this would be a book I would have read to my daughter as soon as I could.
Thank you so much Jo for kindly sending me your magical book for review; we truly adored it.
If you’d like to see even more of Jo’s work then head to her website here. You’ll find lots more glorious inside spreads from this book but also other projects she’s worked on.